Seeking Triple Crown, American Pharaoh Jockey Prays at Rabbi Schneerson’s Grave (VIDEO)
Jockey Victor Espinoza prayed for success at the grave of the Grand Lubavitcher Rebbe in Queens, New York on Thursday as he hopes to ride the first Triple Crown-winning horse in 37 years, CBS News reported.
The Mexico native, who will compete in the 2015 Belmont Stakes on Saturday with his racehorse American Pharaoh, recited psalms at the Rebbe’s “Ohel” at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Cambria Heights. He also wrote out his own prayer note in Spanish that he added to a pile of prayers left at the sacred site, the New York Post reported.
While at the grave site he carried the biographical book Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History, by Joseph Telushkin. Upon exiting the site, he followed instructions to walk backwards out of respect for the deceased.
The athlete was accompanied by Rabbi Efraim Zaltzman, Director of Chabad of Kingsborough in Brooklyn, Kabbalah teacher Rabbi Berel Lerman and Rabbi Motti Seligson, Director of Media Relations at Chabad.org.
“No matter what religion you are, or what temple you go, you always come out with a different energy, which is good,” he told the Post about visiting the grave site, adding that he is not superstitious.
Talking about his fate in the upcoming race, he said, “whatever happens, if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. If not, then I move on like last year.”
Espinoza, who is not Jewish, said he is a spiritual man. He told the Post he prays about ten times a day and meditates probably five or six times a day. He said after receiving a blessing last month from Chabad Rabbi Sholom Ber Korf in Florida, he scheduled the grave site visit, a detour from his regular preparations for the Belmont.
“So much energy right here,” he said of the shrine. “It would kind of build you up right here. It’s like good energy drinks.”
The jockey told CBS the most important thing he prays for is health because, “without health, we cannot do anything.” His Jewish publicist, Mike Weitz, said Espinoza believes that “with God’s help and the Rebbe interceding for him… he’s going to be very successful and very safe.”
American Pharoah’s owners, the Zayat family, are observant Jews who originated from Egypt. The family said they will observe the Sabbath on race day and will camp overnight in RVs on Belmont’s grounds, CBS reported.
If his prayers are answered and Espinoza makes history with American Pharoah at the racetrack, he said he would not mind making the trip to the Rebbe’s grave a new Belmont Stakes tradition.
Watch a video report about the visit below: